How does grief from violent deaths differ from other deaths?

Essay by mustang04University, Bachelor'sA+, February 2005

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The reaction to the death of a loved one is usually grief. It can also encompass a range of emotions that are powerful and consuming; anger, sadness, loneliness, fear, guilt and helplessness, depending on the nature of the death. A review done by the Catholic University of America in Maryland and Columbia University in New York respectively, links sudden and violent deaths with excessive or traumatic grief reactions.

Sudden violent deaths whether through suicide, fatal motor or other accidents, drowning or murder can create chaotic situations, including public curiosity and media coverage, that interferes with the natural process of grief. Media attention, though justified, involves constant reminders of what has occurred, which includes photographs, interviews, television appearances and perhaps this prevents the denial that would otherwise overtake those left behind. Well- meaning but, ignorant sympathizer's mouth platitudes about it being fate and that time heals all wounds. However, instead of leaving it to time, they increasingly appear with inane chitchat, which is intended to cheer, but which disenfranchises mourners of their grief and can lead to mental problems including avoidance reactions and post- traumatic stress disorder.

American psychotherapist Tom Golden likens the grief experience to being trapped in the belly of a snake. In his book, swallowed by a Snake, he tells the story of fictional flute player who allows himself to swallow by a giant boa constrictor to stop it from preying on the people of his village. The flute player then cuts his way though the snake's body until he gets to its heart. Once he cuts that organ the creature dies and he is able to take the glad news to his village. Golden's analogy sees the mourner cut off from everyday life, in a dark tight spot, but having faith that cutting away a little bit...